Will Yeiser, FBRA Executive Director and Co-Founder
The FBRA Experamid is the brainchild of former Girls Outdoor Program Director and founding math teacher Emily Shanblatt, and it is essentially an infographic that communicates our collective purpose here at the French Broad River Academy. We have formally adopted the Experamid framework schoolwide, and if you tour either campus, you will see it hung in classrooms, hallways, and assembly spaces. It is being professionally designed by our graphic design artist, and it will soon appear on our website. The Experamid provides common language for our organization, and it is an excellent tool for ensuring that all stakeholders clearly understand why we do what we do.
Emily is famous for coining several creative, hybrid words to communicate key concepts to her students and staff. “Nervicited” is one of my favorites that I still use frequently with students before running a challenging rapid (a combination of feeling nervous and excited at the same time). It comes as no surprise that Emily came up with the word “experamid,” which is a combination of the words “experience” and “pyramid.”
It all begins with the “why” which is our mission of building character and integrity. It fuels us each day to show up and fulfill the extremely demanding nature of this work. The reward, of course, is the growth of not only our students but our entire community of parents, board members, alumni, and stakeholders. Our hope and aspiration for all our students is that at some point beyond the three year progression of the Experamid, students will reach their full self potential and contribute to the betterment of society.
The next layer of the Experamid is the “how” of what we do. We use the three spheres of the outdoors, academics, and social emotional learning to present our students with what I call “authentic opportunities for failure.” Whether it is staying with a host family in a rural village in a foreign country, climbing the steep face of a rock, or conducting an egg drop experiment in science class, students are presented with real challenges that provide unforgettable feedback while increasing their determination, courage, curiosity, and compassion.
The base of the Experamid is the “what” of what we do at FBRA. We establish foundational values and constantly model, teach, and hold ourselves accountable to our core character traits, which are courage, compassion, determination, and curiosity. Since words shape culture and culture drives the success of our organization, we invested an entire half day of teacher training in August to come to consensus on our core character traits. These four traits are referenced across all the FBRA spheres of programming. They provide clarity and understanding when we discuss what “character” actually means and what it looks like in action at the French Broad River Academy.
Our foundational values consist of safety, respect, and responsibility. When we say safety, we are not only thinking of the physical safety of the child while paddling a canoe down a river, but their emotional and social safety as well. Without these foundational values in place, it is impossible to build character or even consider an international homestay experience in Costa Rica.
The legacy of Emily Shanblatt grows stronger each year as salamander after salamander climbs her Experamid. Whether it is stroke by stroke in a canoe or tackling the difficult steps of a complicated science experiment, FBRA graduates will continue to build their character and get closer to fulfilling their full self potential.